HAVANA TIMES — “You people have committed fraud. The special allotment of powdered milk in your ration booklet is false. Now, you have to reimburse me for the milk I gave you, which you’ve already consumed.” These were the words spoken, right outside our door, by the accountant of the store where we purchase the products assigned us by our ration booklet.
Her tantrum was a bit much, even for us, who have grown accustomed to the abuse dished out by these government workers who deal with the public. She asked us to show her our ration card, so she could check the period for which the dietary item had been allotted.
When we gave it to her, she showed us that the date on the last page had been scratched out. She told us she needed to take the document with her, to verify whether the dietary allotment was real or not, and to see if it had been properly renewed.
My mother has long suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes and glaucoma. Three years ago, she underwent surgery for a neoplasia of the colon. Thus, the physician had assigned her an official diet consisting of chicken, viands and milk, a dietary allotment which must be renewed every year as of the date the diet is prescribed.
My brother and I thought we had settled this whole renewal issue when we’d gotten the diabolical OFICODA (Cuba’s “food control” bureau) to sign and stamp the ration booklet on January of this year. This bureau, in addition to renewing official dietary product allotments, is responsible (or ought to be responsible) for regulating (through non-computerized means, I assume) the distribution of products on the ration booklet. I say “diabolical” because its regulation mechanisms are all too often quite negligent.
Some ration booklets include individuals who have moved or left the country, non-existent children and even people who have passed away.
Family members who share a ration booklet actually profit from this negligence.
But our family is not in the habit of taking anything that’s not rightfully ours. This is why we were so taken aback by the accountant’s rude accusations; we felt humiliated. This public official, it is worth pointing out, has a “suspicious” link to OFICODA, where she was to confirm the alleged falsity of our dietary allotment.
Nowadays, as everyone in Cuba knows, these allotments are a booming business. For having deprived a person of the dietary allotment they need, these officials can proceed to sell it to another person for a fistful of hard currency.
When the “accountant” returned to our home with the ration booklet, the allotment had already been cancelled. When we asked her to explain to us who could possibly have signed and stamped the booklet, she replied: “It was probably a temp who is no longer working at OFICODA. If the allotment is real, you have to go and get it re-assigned by your doctor again.”
Following a long and difficult process involving physicians, signatures and seals – a process which spanned 20 days, if I am not mistaken – my mother’s dietary allotment was renewed…for next month, of course.